SAIL ALL SEASON
Maaike Huvermann — one of the best female windsurfers in the world — gives us a valuable insight into how to deal with cold water windsurfing.
Over the last few years, I have heard countless people who say that they stop windsurfing once the temperature goes below 10 °C. But that’s such a shame! The best wind season in The Netherlands is in wintertime and I’m sure it is in other places as well! On top of that, the spots are less crowded, so there’s more space for you! Because of the extra time and space on the water, you learn more and at a faster pace. All the reasons to go out and brave the cold!
I use a 6/5/4mm wetsuit together with 5mm boots, 3mm full gloves (without opening for the hand palm) and a cap. If it gets lower than 5 °C, I also use neoprene socks and a thin underlayer under my wetsuit. Apart from that, I use earplugs to prevent surfers’ ears.
Before your session
The goal is to be as warm as possible when you go on the water. The following steps should help you get as warm as possible. Prepare well! You don’t want to get into a wet wetsuit. If you sail often, it could be worth investing in a wetsuit dryer, this will dry a wetsuit in a day.
Before getting changed, I would suggest rigging in clothes first. If you get into wetsuit first, this could cool you down before even going out on the water. Then, there are a few things to make getting into your wetsuit a bit more enjoyable. Something I always do is heating up my wetsuit and boots on the dashboard when I drive to the spot. I turn the heater up to sauna temperature and point it to the windscreen, this will preheat your gear nicely for you.
If possible, get dressed inside. Even in small cars, you can change inside. I’ve got a Ford Focus and always get changed inside the driver’s seat. It’s a bit awkward, but it really helps to stay warm. If you really can’t, try to find some shelter from the wind.
Never skip the warming up! Apart from the usual reasons, warming up revs up the cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. This is what’s going to keep you warm during your session. Do whatever works for you, but make sure you’ve got your heart pumping.
I always do a bit of a warmup when I go on the water as well. The idea being, that as long as you don’t fall in the water, but you are sailing/working out, your body temperature will continue to rise. So do whatever you feel most comfortable with for the first few minutes to try to stay dry.
All the preparation of trying to stay warm should make the first plunge manageable! Which then starts a domino effect of you sailing and heating up, falling in and getting cooler, heating up again while sailing, etc. You want to start off the domino effect right, not the other way around where you’re constantly fighting against the cold.
When you get cold mid-session, it might be most useful to go for a break and run around, do some jumping squats, etc. Another super useful thing is to prepare a thermal mug filled with hot water and another one filled with hot chocolate. It will heat you up instantly!
Personally, I prefer sailing at shallow spots or lakes in the winter, since it’s much safer in case something would happen. The colder it gets, the more likely it is that you get muscle cramps (warm up!!). This could be very dangerous if you lose your gear in the shore break for example. In all cases, but especially when sailing at remote places, make sure to check your gear (mast base, ropes) and always sail together.
This is by far my least favourite bit of the whole session. I always motivate myself by thinking I will be warm soon and I’ve got a hot chocolate waiting for me. But, unless you’ve got a van to get changed inside, I don’t think there is much you can do to prevent feeling miserable for a few moments.
Additional Tips from Balz Müller
Everyone deals with the cold in a different way and I still discover new hacks all the time. So I got into contact with Balz to see if he had some other tips that I haven’t mentioned.
Balz: “the onion technique of wearing a few thin layers below a good 5/3 wintersuit will keep you boiling even when sailing below 0!
Against cold fingers, there is a little trick (heated boom.. joking hehe). Start your session for a few minutes, get back to the beach and swing your arms to let the blood circulate and eventually fire up your fingers (hurts like hell). But after a minute of pain, you won’t feel the cold that much anymore!
Find out more about Maaike here.
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